Benefits of Expungement for Marijuana
With more and more states opting for legalization for not only medical marijuana but also recreational use, other changes are being made to the laws. One of the biggest and most welcome changes is helping millions of people in the United States clean up their criminal records by having marijuana convictions removed. Currently, there are 18 states in the country where there is conviction relief for marijuana. There is the potential for the expungement of these convictions to eventually be made at the federal level.
What is Expungement?
The team means that a conviction or arrest is removed from a criminal record entirely. When something has been expunged, it means that there is no longer any information in the databases that it was on a person’s record in the first place. Of course, because there are so many different jurisdictions, the definition can vary somewhat from one location to another.
Expungement has become a popular topic in recent years because there are so many people in prison or who have a criminal record. More people are in jail in the United States than anywhere else in the world, even in countries that far surpass the US in terms of population. In addition to those who are currently incarcerated, there are also millions of people who are on parole or probation.
In many cases, these are for marijuana-related charges. Around 660,000 arrests in the United States each year are from marijuana. People of color tend to be arrested more often, convicted more often, and given harsher sentences than their white counterparts.
The legalization of marijuana can help to reduce these types of arrests, which can help to reduce the number of people incarcerated in the country. However, without expungement, these individuals would still have a criminal record. This means that it could be difficult, if not impossible, for these individuals to return to a normal life if they still have a record even though they have paid their debt to society.
Those who have been convicted of a crime will have it follow them around for the rest of their lives. Consider for a moment just how often criminal background checks are used in today’s world. They are used when people are applying for a job and when they are looking for a place to live. It might be difficult to find gainful employment because many are reticent to the idea of hiring someone with a conviction.
Having a conviction could also strip voting rights in many cases. People will have more trouble getting public assistance, getting financial aid, they could be deported in some cases, and they may be denied the ability to go into the military. Of course, these are just a few of the potential issues that can arise with a conviction.
In many cases, someone who has a marijuana conviction will have trouble getting custody or even visitation rights to their children. This means that parents who want to see their kids and spend time with them might not be able to get that important bonding time because of an old marijuana conviction. Having a conviction for marijuana can hang over a person’s head for a long time.
It’s a Ridiculous Punishment that Continues to Punish
The types of punishment that occur are often harsh when it comes to marijuana. This is due to the misguided War on Drugs that has been pushed for so many decades. People are serving time for small offenses that limit their options when they get out of jail. It is causing serious harm for large groups of people, and there are still many states where marijuana is criminalized. It’s also still illegal at the federal level.
Fortunately, Things are Changing
There are several methods of relief after someone has been convicted, although they are not available in all states. In addition to expungement, which destroys the record, there is also re-sentencing from a felony to a misdemeanor, sealing records, and vacating, which means to turn a conviction into a not guilty verdict. While rare, it is also possible to get a pardon from a governor or the president.
Expungement tends to be the most efficient and best of these methods. Those who live in states where expungement is available should speak with an attorney about the steps they need to take. It could mean a massive difference for the rest of their life. Some states, such as Vermont, have developed automatic expungement for low-level marijuana offenses. Some locations in California have a tool that will automatically expunge records.
When the marijuana conviction is expunged, it can increase the opportunities for the individual and their family. One of the biggest benefits is that it can help to improve the chance of the person getting hired. This allows them to have a job where they can make money to care for themselves and their loved ones.
Having a job makes it possible to afford a place to live. With an expunged record, it also makes it easier to find a location to live. Many apartment complexes and landlords hesitate to allow someone to live at the property if they have a conviction. Expungement will clear that up.
When someone is able to get a job and have a place to live, it also helps to lower crime rates. If people feel like they have no choice to make a living but to commit crimes, that is what they will do to survive. Expungement gives them a new chance in life, and the new job can keep them from reverting to criminal means to make money.
As you can see, there are many benefits to expungement for marijuana-related offenses. As more and more states start to legalize marijuana, it is likely that expungement will become more commonplace. This is good news for those who are struggling to make ends meet and who are worried about what they are going to do to find a good job.